7 Mid-School Year Reminders on Finishing Strong

Recently, I was inspired by the story of Diana Nyad, who made it a personal goal to swim from Cuba to Florida and did so at the age of 64. Her 100-mile feat came with many unsuccessful previous attempts, the pain of jelly-fish attacks, hallucinations, and unwavering teamwork. You can see her inspirational story here.

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Like long-distance swimming, being an educator is a marathon, not a sprint. And the start of a new semester is a great time to remind ourselves of what our goals are for the remainder of the school year.

So here are seven reminders I shared with my teachers at the start of this semester that apply to all of us in education:

1. Remember to use both sides of your brain: instruction and management.
Teaching is both an art and a science. And good teaching requires both understanding of a subject as well as understanding of your students. Remember to be passionate about your lessons and equally passionate about understanding your students.

Good classroom management, for instance, happens when you understand your content as well as create procedures, routines, and practices that keep students engaged, focused, learning, exploring, and succeeding.

2. Be prepared ahead of time with lesson plans, diary maps, scheduling labs, etc.
If you do not map out your teaching, you will not reach your goals. Know ahead of time what specific content areas need to be covered by the end of semester, and plan accordingly.

If research unit requires two weeks and part of that includes accessing content, plan now for how/when/where that will happen. Provide your students with maps as well–specific, written, measurable goals for how to complete tasks, units, or assignments.

3. Stay committed to punctuality, dependability, and consistency, including supervision, grades, arrival/depart times.
We model what we expect. And successful students are punctual, dependable, and consistent. We must set the best of example of this for students by modeling those same behaviors.

4. Always be professionals in conversations, emails, social media, and personal appearance.
No matter what kind of day you are having, make it a good one for your students. Practice the common courtesies you appreciate in them. Greet others with positive feedback, think before speaking, disagree with respect and dignity. Come to school with your A-game and permeate the school with the high expectations we want to see in our students.

5. Remain teachable, life-long learners, collaborators and team-players.
It is okay not to know it all and to explore for new solutions, methods, or knowledge. Keeping an open mind does not mean being gullible or manipulated. Instead it means staying humble and working with (not against) others to reach common goals. If you ever think there is no more to learn, it is time to find a new profession.

6. Be a goal-setter personally, professionally and collaboratively.
We ask our students to set goals, so what goals have we set this semester? Think about your school-wide goals, subject-level goals, and personal goals.

For instance, what would happen if you made it a personal goal that every student on your roster will pass in a specific homework assignment or project…accepting no zeroes from anyone? Instead of expecting the norm, challenge the norms that may cause you to reach heights you have never seen before.

7. Remember to celebrate.
Finally, at the end of the day, we cannot forget to celebrate. I like Jon Gordon’s advice: “Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished____________.” Do the same with students and fellow team members. Great work deserves great praise.

When Diana Nyad was interviewed after achieving her 100-mile long-distance swimming dream, she said two things. One, never ever give up. And, two, teamwork made the difference.

You may not face attacking jelly-fish this semester, but you will face some tough challenges. Whether it is tough student, a difficult parent, or a rigorous lesson, you will face rough waters. You will also experience some great successes.

So decide ahead of time what your mind frame, your strategies, your goals, your attitude will be, and then pace yourself with day-by-day actions and the teamwork that help you finish strong.

Our students deserve our best. Plan now to make it the best end of the year yet!

Now It’s Your Turn
My list is not exhaustive. What are some reminders you want to add to the list for the rest of us as we take on the remainder of the school year? Share with the rest of us.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker